Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Historical Marker #1876 in Lexington recognizes the contributions of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge to the women's suffrage movement.

The marker is located on the grounds of Ashland, the estate of Henry Clay. Madeline Breckinridge was the great-granddaughter of Henry Clay, and a cousin to Kentucky suffragist Laura Clay. Madeline was born in Franklin County on May 20, 1872. At age ten, she lived at Ashland. She lived there until a short time after her 1898 marriage to Desha Breckinridge, who was the editor of the "Lexington Herald."

Madeline, a tireless social reformer who spent her entire adult life in service to others, made her contributions while battling tuberculosis which had caused the amputation of her foot. Her early social reform work focused on children. She fought for child labor laws, schools, playgrounds, and hospitals. Her eventual involvement in the women's suffrage movement was, in part, a way to promote these other social programs. She served two terms as president of the Kentucky Equal Rights Association (KERA) in 1912 and 1919, and was vice-president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1913-1915.

Her involvement at the national level involved a grueling travel schedule throughout the country. She became well known for her excellent oratorical skills, which many said came from her descent from the "Great Compromiser," Henry Clay. The 1920 ratification of the 19th amendment by the Kentucky legislature has been credited to her tireless effort.

Madeline died on Thanksgiving Day, November 25th, 1920. Newspapers reporting her death called her Kentucky's "most distinguished woman citizen," and one of the "greatest women orators in the U.S." Her funeral was held at Ashland, and she is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.

Images

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

This photograph shows Madeline McDowell Breckinridge, who championed many social causes in Kentucky. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge, pictured here, served as the president of Kentucky Equal Rights Association. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Desha Breckinridge

Desha Breckinridge

Desha Breckinridge, pictured here, married Madeline McDowell Breckinridge in 1898. Courtesy of the University of Kentucky. View File Details Page

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

Madeline McDowell Breckinridge

This portrait of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge was painted by Allan Lee Swisher in 1921. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Ashland

Ashland

This photograph shows present-day Ashland, the estate of Henry Clay, and home of Madeline McDowell Breckinridge for a brief time. Photograph courtesy of Amy Roe. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Amy Roe, “Madeline McDowell Breckinridge,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed April 29, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/334.

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